Will Your Surgeon Reveal the Surgical Error (s)He Made?

When you enter an Oregon hospital for the purpose of undergoing a surgical procedure, you do not expect that your surgeon or anyone else on the surgical team will make a mistake. Unfortunately, however, statistics show that in the U.S., upwards of 250,000 patients die every year due to surgical errors.

Even if the mistake that happens before, during or after your surgery does not kill you, do you have any reason to expect that anyone from the surgical team will tell you that an error even occurred? CBS News reports that the answer to that question isĀ not necessarily yes, even though it should be.

Recent survey

Despite national guidelines encouraging surgeons and hospitals to disclose error information to the affected patients and their families, a recent survey of surgeons revealed that only slightly more than half of them, 62.5 percent to be exact, actually do so. These surgeons reported that they routinely give their patients the following information regarding any error that occurred:

  • What type of error occurred
  • How it happened
  • Why it happened
  • How badly they feel about the error
  • How concerned they are about the patient’s consequent welfare
  • What steps they intend to take in order to treat any medical problem caused by the error

As for apologizing for the mistake, only 55 percent of the surgeons said they do this in addition to disclosing the actual information.

Surgical error types

Numerous opportunities exist for a surgical error to occur, including the following:

  • Your surgeon could perform a surgery on you that was intended for another patient.
  • (S)he could operate on your incorrect body part.
  • (S)he could accidently injure one of your veins, arteries, nerves, etc. during the surgery.
  • (S)he could inadvertently leave something inside you such as a sponge, clamp, etc.
  • Your anesthesiologist could give you too much or too little anesthesia.

Liability fears

The number one reason surgeons gave for not revealing error information to their patients was the fear of inviting liability if they do so. With medical malpractice lawsuits at an all-time high, many surgeons and hospitals believe that divulging error information to patients and their families just invites a lawsuit. Other medical professionals, especially nurses, fear that if they will face disciplinary action or even dismissal from their jobs if they reveal error information to patients.

Even if you feel just fine after your surgery, you nevertheless would do well to come right out and ask your surgeon if anything went wrong related to your surgery. Most surgeons will not tell you an outright lie in answer to your questions.

This is general educational information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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